Crackle: One woman’s mission to save the pork scratching

When we started Bray’s Cottage we had the heady ambition of rehabilitating the name of pork pies away from the cellophane-wrapped horrors found in garages and most supermarkets and making it an interesting  food that people could feel better after eating, not worse. Something to serve to friends with a real sense of joy and occasion.


Something we were proud of. Special. Made the way I like them. All of those good things.

Over the last year or so I’ve been wondering if we could do the same with the ever-so humble pork scratching.  I was aware that most people love good crunchy crackling on a joint, especially if it isn’t tooth shattering. But pork scratchings, which ought to be the same proud, real food, are almost always bought in little silver bags, laden with salt, rusk and chemicals and seen as a very blokeish , slightly edgily disgusting, snack. As @foodjournalist, Andrew Webb (author of the forthcoming, this year’s foodie must-buy, Food Britannica) described it, Father Jack’s toe-nail clippings.

Fennel and Juniper

Surely we could do better than that if we applied the same principles as the pies. Start with great local outdoor pigs, cook as if we were doing it at home, with just the sorts of ingredients that are in a normal food-loving kitchen. Come up with a name that took it as far away as possible from the little silver bags. And so Crackle was born.

Crackle is essentially roast pork skin, carefully cooked by eye until it puffs up and is golden and crunchy and then seasoned with really interesting grown up flavours. And it’s gluten free. So far Crackle No. 1 is Smoked Paprika and Rosemary. No. 2 is Lemon Pepper and Thyme (a nice refeshing zing) and N0. 3 is Fennel and Juniper. My foodie co-conspirators Jenni from Northcote Brewery & Derek from Naked Wines came up to HQ a week ago with the contents of their extensive & exotic spice cupboards and we came up with some more brilliant flavours which will be in production soon.

It’s still early days, as I write we have some technical limitations on the quantity we can bake. We need to get an extractor fan so that I can bake the Crackle on all four decks of the big pie oven, but we were going to do that anyway, to save kippering chief pie-baker @moggypie, and that should be up and running next weekend (hooray!). Fresh and lovely HQ – and us.

The other limitation is trays and racks, our current pie trays optimise oven space but are too shallow to safely handle the lovely dripping (a whole other porky story) that falls out of the crackle.

So at the moment, we are producing Crackle in frustratingly small quanities. Our only retail outlet is The Wholesome Grocer in Norwich and even they have had to ration customers and keep jars under the counter as word spread around Twitter. Which was both crazy and fun. I’ve also sold it on the pie stall at Creake Abbey Farmers Market and it went down gratifyingly well.

Crackle No. 1: Smoked Paprika and Rosemary

Hopefully, over the next few months we can start to supply a few other outlets (I’ve got some lovely people on the growing waiting list), but I suspect demand might always outpace supply.

But a whole new foodie adventure has begun.



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24 Responses to Crackle: One woman’s mission to save the pork scratching

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Crackle: One woman’s mission to save the pork scratching | Bray's Cottage --

  2. Jan says:

    These look amazing. A far cry from the cmmercial ones sold in pubs which are toe nails of the devil!

  3. Oh god I need these. Really. I must have. Please? Pretty please and I will send curd/cupcakes/first born!

  4. Huw Sayer says:

    The lemon pepper and thyme sounds particularly delicious. Looking forward to trying some next time I am in Norwich (assuming there is any in stock).
    Best wishes

  5. Hugh Wright says:

    Having had the very great pleasure – nay, honour – of tasting Crackle ‘in beta’, I can vouch for what an incredible, fabulous product it is! The teeny tiny quantities just make it even more desirable – it’s the Beluga of crackles!

    Many, many congratulations on your new baby.

  6. Ian says:

    Had some.

    It’s bloody lovely…!

    Although the niche packaging idea may not work for larger markets…!

  7. This is something I would definitely buy,though I’m guessing availability wont extend up to Northumberland for a while yet : (

  8. Sausage King says:

    Let me at it…!

    Can’t wait to try it!

  9. Kanga_Rue says:

    I want some… now! And you know you shouldn’t mess with a pregnant woman!

  10. hizzaryfromtheblackcountry says:

    Oh come on. In one breath you say you are rescuing the traditional pork scratching and in the next you are adding trendy FLAVOURINGS to them?! A real pork scratching has no rusk on it, although it has plenty of salt, and it may or may not break your teeth, depending, on the tenderness of the pork rind used and the amount of fat attached thereto. Much like crackling, in fact.
    It depends on its quality for its flavour and no pig ever tasted of juniper or rosemary or smoked paprika.
    Moreover, a real pork scratching ALWAYS comes from the Black Country, or very close to; and a REAL real pork scratching is delivered in bulk to the pub and bagged up on the premises. And in the West Midlands there are butchers who still makes their own and sell them in the shop.
    Next time anyone on here buys a bag of scratchings, check out the small print: if it hasn’t at the very least got an address on it in Smethwick or Tipton or somewhere else just west of Brum, it isn’t a good pork scratching.
    Oh yeah, and don’t buy that “pork crunch” rubbish. That really is a sin.

    • Sarah says:

      Thanks for your comment and for the interesting detail about Black Country pork scratchings, you are obviously really proud of the West Midlands – which makes my heart sing. I love the regionalism of great British food.

      You are right that I’m not trying to make a traditional pork scratching, it’s my take on it, which is why I’m calling it Crackle so people are expecting something a bit different. The way I operate is very egocentric. I love the flavour of, say, smoked paprika with pork (works amazingly in chorizo) so that’s what I’m going to make. That’s the joy of having my own business, I can 🙂

      I did get sent some Black Country scratchings when I was researching, so I have tried them. Thanks for the tip about the pork crunch – I’ll try to avoid it!

  11. Carl Bennett says:

    Pork scratchings are an essential food group, allowing other people to recognise specifically who is making unfair and disproportionate demands on the health service. So far as all this Black Country propaganda goes, any fule no that real pork scratchings can be recognised by the occasional blue one in the bag, still bearing the dye they put on the back of old 45373/9, as the farming unit called him. Eaters of the Blue Scratching are empowered with supernatural abilities, such as vomiting more than anyone else could believe possible and the power to talk for hours about football without boring people.

  12. Sally says:

    It sounds like heaven in a bag to me (a woman who can single-handedly eat the entire crackling off the roast as my family don’t like it). Who knew that it would prove so controversial in your comments section!

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